Dr. Sagar Raj Sharma is the Dean of Kathmandu University, School of Arts, Hattiban. He has been a leading figure to develop the status of Kathmandu University School of Arts. He earned the Ph.D. in Development Economics from Fukuoka University Japan. He is currently doing research in centers around the land use and land reform, migration and development, contested development and foreign aid.
Colleges Nepal talked with Dr. Sharma about current Perspective and status of social science in Nepal.
At every step of progress mankind has made, social science has helped us make sense of it and put that progress in a proper perspective. Social science helps people understand the consequences and application of the new technologies of our times. If in the 19th century it was steam power and railways and factories, today it is the nanotechnology and the advances in medical research. All these advances have had immense impact on the way we live. But they also present us with a bewildering range of ethical, legal and social issues. We need social scientists to analyse and critique what’s going on. That way we will be able to make informed choices that can shape our future.
Social Science helps us understand the multi-dimensional and complex nature of the society we live in. The progress in Science and Technology has provided us with enormous opportunities. But only with Social Science will we be able to make the best and just use of the technologies. Nepal has experienced unprecedented socio-political transformation in the last two decades, and many people are still struggling to make sense the impacts we are having because of the changes. Social science will help us understand, accept and adapt to these changes.
We haven’t done enough to attract the youths of today in becoming students of social science. It may be a problem of marketing and promotion, but it has also to do with our collective failure to make social science attractive. There is very little funding for teaching and research in social sciences. The School of Arts at Kathmandu University realizes this fact, and thus is making an effort to broaden the teaching and research of social sciences. But we need to do more to attract today’s youth into studying subjects of Social Sciences. We should be able to tell the aspiring youths that with social sciences their future will be secure.
Status of Social Science in Nepal
Development is skewed in Nepal. On one hand the affluent urban youths have access to the latest technologies, while on the other we do not have enough public toilets and proper sanitation facilities, even in our cities. We are talking about building smart cities, but we are not able to provide clean drinking water to our citizens. Our roads and transportation are being managed very poorly. There are many such gaps and contrasts. Out rich history, culture and heritage are being overshadowed by the haphazard and unplanned growth we are witnessing.
Public policies should come out of evidence-based research. But there is very little funding for social science research, when compared with science and technology. This is true internationally. It’s so difficult to find donors interested in supporting research in social science. But that is the only way we will be able to link research with policy. No doubt science and technology are important and social science and never replace them, but only social science can inject social value to science and technology! Enhancing access to, control over, and ownership of, capability to use the available technology is what social science does. That is why it is so important for today’s Nepal. In fact, in areas such as education, health, the justice system, business and economics, to name just a few, the significance of social science is high, and necessary. It is therefore pertinent that this educational imbalance be addressed and more support provided to the social sciences.
Social Science at KU
The School of Arts (SoA) at Kathmandu University offers a wide range of degrees in various subjects related to arts and social sciences. It aims to promote professional knowledge, understanding and skills in the development of arts, culture, and other social and economic potentials of human resources through scholarly activities, critical thinking, analysis and communications, practical interventions, assessments and evaluations, and integration of social, economic, political, cultural and environmental components of development. With its vision is to provide education for promoting ideals of social and economic justice and well being for all persons and their environments, it offers a wide range of programs such as Development Studies, Community Development, Economics, Media Studies, Art and Design, Ethnomusicology and Buddhist Studies. These programs attempt to cover the wide spectrum of the society and the multiple realities of the society we live in. The graduates of SoA are its best ambassadors. Many of them are successful professionals, and are contributing to the society in their respective fields. According to latest tracers study, some 20% of SoA’s graduates are self-employed and are into social entrepreneurship.
SoA offers interdisciplinary courses that are designed to help meet the current developmental challenges of our society. By doing so, it aims to produce skilled and capable human resources that are able to understand, analyze and meet the challenges of tomorrow.
(Based on interview with Dr. Sagar Raj Sharma, Dean, School of Arts, KU)